Students at the University of Michigan are showing their anger over chalk messages found on campus throughout the week in support of Donald Trump, resulting in the police being called in to handle the situation because students reported feeling unsafe at school.
The chalk writings, found in the diag, a public square frequently in use by activists of many causes, included messages such as “Trump 2016,” “Build the Wall,” and “Stop Islam.”
“This is so reflective of our student campus and the depths of racism and the things that students of color have to endure and that the administration is continuously silent on,” Michigan student Banen Al-Sheemary told the Daily.
Al-Sheemary went on to state that the university’s Division of Public Safety and Security had not responded to the issue at hand, saying that no one could be reached when called. The suggestion was made that a separate emergency number be made available to students other than the police, because many students of color do not feel comfortable enough to contact local authorities in such situations.
A group of students did contact the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Michigan Regional Office concerning “racist symbols and phrases” at the school. The advocacy group is currently investigating the situation. Fatina Abdrabboh, ADC Michigan’s director, said the group stands in defense of students everywhere, and that they expect university officials to take action to ensure the campus is safe for all students.
She went on to say that her group had contacted UM officials concerning the issue, writes Niraj Warikoo for The Detroit Free Press.
The statements had mostly been washed away by students by the end of the week. Al-Sheemary said it was irresponsible of the administration to not take care of the situation themselves, adding that ignoring the messages perpetuates racism and stereotypes that result in violence occurring on campus, which in turn cause students of color to feel unsafe.
The school’s administration issued a statement in response to the controversy, saying that while freedom of speech exists and students are allowed to write messages in chalk on campus sidewalks, “We are fully committed to fostering an environment that is welcoming and inclusive of everyone. Tonight we are reminded there is much work yet to be done.”
As a public university, students have increased protection of freedom of speech under the First Amendment, reports Mark Hicks for The Detroit News.
School President Mark Schlissel also spoke to criticize the vandalism, saying he was committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.
“Racial, ethnic or religious discrimination have no place at the University of Michigan. Targeted attacks against groups of people are hateful and serve only to tear apart our university community.”
Officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter are disturbed at the trend that incidents such as this one seem to be reflecting. CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid said the group is concerned that these situations appear to creating an environment in which students feel unsafe. The group is encouraging anyone who has information pertaining to the events to contact the university’s Department of Public Safety.